Playoff selection committee to America: trust us!

Year2 picks up a revealing quote from Stewart Mandel’s column on Michigan State-Oregon.

“When [committee members] are comparing and contrasting teams, part of it will be the elements that go into a schedule,” he said. “It’s probably not going to be very satisfying to a lot of the analytics community that wants formulas. ‘We looked at Stanford’s schedule and it was 46.45 and Alabama’s was 46.34, so then Stanford’s is better.’ We’re not looking at it that way, and the committee’s not looking at it that way.

“… We could build a fancy algorithm, but kind of how the Supreme Court said you know pornography when you see it, you just know a hard schedule when you see it.”

That quote isn’t from Bill Hancock, or one of the committee members.  It’s from Stephen Prather, the guy who’s providing the committee with its data.  The stat geek, in other words.

We’ve gone from relying on computer models for which the specifics were kept undisclosed to relying on people for whom we’ll never really know what specific data swayed them in deciding on which four football teams are most deserving of appearing in a national semi-final.  (Notice I didn’t use the word “best”.)  I’m not seeing where that’s really much of an improvement.  And at least you can’t lobby a computer.

I mockingly noted in a Twitter discussion today that it’s all good because Jeff Long has repeatedly assured us that the selection process will be transparent.  There’s a certain sense of being detached from reality for a guy with his management track record to insist that he knows everything will work.



Filed under BCS/Playoffs

17 responses to “Playoff selection committee to America: trust us!

  1. Slaw Dawg

    The trend in almost all other spheres is to put faith in analytics. I’ve got to believe that at some level, even some of the playoff selection committee members will be creating nifty Excel spreadsheets to perform their own in-expert numbers crunching. Theirs just won’t be as precise as the professional statisticians’ models.

    In the end, though, it won’t matter if they use every computer in the country under a system overseen by the reincarnations of Einstein, Oppenheimer and Von Braun; or a Platonic wise men committee consisting of retired coaches who won at least 70% of their games and pass lie detector tests regarding bias. There will be more teams that can say “we coulda been #4” or even “#3” than there were teams who could say “we coulda been #2,” and whatever the system is, it will be blamed for overlooking such worthies. That will lead to the absurd result of an 8 team playoff, in which there will be even MORE teams that can say “we coulda been # 6, 7 or 8.”

    Like I keep saying, I never have figured out what all this stuff is about. The bowl system was fine, we all had lotsa fun, and there were probably no more arguments over who was crowned the champ then there will be under the new system. But I still like my cokes out of a glass bottle, too, so what do I know?


  2. Chuck

    “We’ve gone from relying on computer models for which the specifics were kept undisclosed to relying on people for whom we’ll never really know what specific data swayed them in deciding on which four football teams are most deserving of appearing in a national semi-final. “

    Actually, you know the specific data in advance: $$$$$
    Whoever can draw the biggest audience gets in. Really the main reason a mid-major has no real prayer. And why ND gets included in the discussion. The bottom line is that the bottom line was being skewed by those pesky computers.


  3. AusDawg85

    Nothing good will ever come of this. Question: Does the committee seed #1 v #4 and #2 v #3 or will they try to stay regional? Either way, that opens up a can of worms. #3 v #4 seed selection could be a HUGE difference in who you play, but probably no way to prove clearly how one was granted the higher ranking.


  4. I’ve said it time and time again here, there, and everywhere. The BCS did a very solid job of matching #1 vs #2…most years. The problem the BCS and Big 5 faced was money and sharing with the little guys, in addition the BCS games that were not the championship game. This playoff system will generate excitement, but it will also generate major problems and further prove that money is the driving factor behind this new system.


  5. Cojones

    Slaw has hit a conservative nerve that’s probably in most of us. Going further, I’d like to see a reverse roadmap (no, not a regression to the mean) that takes our NC decision-making all the way back to the days when media outright decided the NC. It doesn’t seem we have progressed an inch since before the days of lobbying to be the team in a bowl game facing a conscensus public opinion #1 team. A reverse roadmap could show our reasoning approach to each milestone on our journey by reviewing what led us to this spot.

    A playoff is still in the distant future from where we started in the concept of one. That’s why we are still mired in the same questions that confronted the “Einsteins” of the football media world and has led us to eschew a resolution of the conundrum that’s been created.


  6. Dog in Fla

    “… We could build a fancy algorithm, but kind of how the Supreme Court said you know pornography when you see it, you just know a hard schedule when you see it.”

    Kudos to the stat geek for coming up with perfect are you happy to see me or is that just a hard schedule in your pocket facial language as a happy ending for lucky team #5


  7. Macallanlover

    I hope they don’t let the stats make decisions, just use them for guidance, we know from experience the SOS computer stuff was garbage. I hope they use judgment and not allow the third number right of the decimal make the call . Make your decisions, we will live with them (although never achieve over 70% agreement on them) until the nucleus is every single conference champ from the Power 5 earns their way in. Once you satisfy that base group, you can judgmentally fill out the field, but don’t let Sagarin’s formula be your defense.


  8. Mike

    If the playoff started last year, name the four teams. FSU and Auburn are a given. One loss Alabama? One loss Big 12 winner Baylor? Two loss PAC 12 winner Stanford?

    The BCS rankings would have put Alabama in the mix. But who really thinks a one loss conference winner would be shut out over a one loss SEC team that could not even win its division. There is going to be too much pressure on the committee to reward conference winners

    The only way a one loss SEC team is the second team chosen is the SECCG was the only loss for that team


    • +1 – and that 2nd team had to lose an instant classic like 2012 except we weren’t undefeated. We should go ahead and condition ourselves that the committee is not going to select two SEC teams for the playoff – no matter who’s most deserving. It’s going to be 4 of the Power 5 conference champs every year.

      I think MSU is playing for the B1G’s playoff life today because a double-digit loss to Oregon probably eliminates the B1G unless tOSU goes undefeated.


  9. 69Dawg

    The media guys are already screaming that the conference champions must be given first priority. Long gone are any chances that the loser of the SECCG game gets in ahead of a one loss conference champion. Now they are arguing if the Big 12 is hurt or helped by their head to head championship. The SEC Champ is in but that’s all folks.


  10. ASEF

    If you want 8 in the end, might as well make 4 messy. And simultaneously build support for 5 major conference plus 3 highest ranked at large, seeding determined by a BCS like algorithm.

    End game pretty obvious, if also repulsive.


    • Cojones

      I think you have run smack into the media-created falderal that is the principle reason that we won’t be at four long nor should we have ever embarked on this system and called it a playoff. Call it the two-team or four-team “Decisionmaker” for all I care.

      Long before we went this route to try and determine the best FB team in America it was in the cards that the biggest and best conf champs were going to be marched in by differing conf medias/writers who have an allegiance to their particular fans. “Now how can we get the numerous confs represented”, they said. “I know!” said Delany,” Let’s get conferences to grow bigger and take the top team(s) from each of the little boys, integrate them in with the big boys and call it expansion. The Big 10 gets dibs on ND!” Didn’t quite work the way he planned, but with the media and $$$, the conference network industry springs up to get leverage in the big decisions to include Conf Champs.

      “Now we got us a show!”, they said delightedly. “We can milk this cow as a two-tit pull and later go to a four-tit pull before we get to the final milking that we wanted all along. Our writing and public pontificating can be worth mucho bucks, the tv rights will ensure we can always continue in control of this propaganda ship the way we want it to go and we can make the rabble jump up and down in glee and argue amongst themselves as to the best system; all the while they pay to see their conferences represented. Plus we can eventually throw in a few more teams that will give it that ‘Merican-sense-of-fair-play look. How do you like them apples for getting to a CFB Champion?”.